Police swoop on drug densComment on this story
Cape Town - Major-General Peter Jacobs paces back and forth while briefing members of the SAPS on parade who will be taking part in a raid on Friday.
His voice echoes around the warehouse where nyalas and other police vehicles are parked.
Members of the media wait outside as the logistics of the operation are explained to the police.
“This is the start of the next five weeks which is the active part of the festive season,” Jacobs explains after the briefing.
“This weekend is where we are starting with full-scale activity. We need to make the impact felt now.”
The police break off into smaller teams and the final briefing takes place before they walk to their vehicles.
Operations like this take place every day in Cape Town, says Lieutenant Lance Goliath.
The operation, focusing mainly on gang areas, involves a large number of officers split into groups with each targeting a different area.
A long convoy snakes its way through the narrow streets of Manenberg, splitting up at a T-junction, both teams speeding up as they head off in different directions.
After a few sharp turns both sets of vehicles converge on a house from different directions. Doors open and members of the police stream out and file through the open front gate on to the property.
Six shacks are visible on the property, built around a brick house.
The officers fan out, and head for the various doors of the buildings. After a lot of shouting, a man wearing only boxers appears at the doorway of the main house.
The police go inside and begin their search.
People are searched in the yard. One officer looks inside the overflowing wheelie bins, dogs barely move as their eyes follow the movement of officers.
An officer walks out of the house and mutters: “There must be more here,” after telling a colleague that a parcel of dagga has been found in the house.
He is right. A paint tin, half-filled with small plastic bags of dagga is found in another room.
This police team has its first haul of the day with an estimated street value of over R1 000.
The raid on the house lasts a little over 10 minutes; the team moves out as quickly as it moved in.
The man who appeared in the doorway in his boxers is marched out of the house. People walking past don’t even look twice as he is put in the back of a police van.
As soon as the van door shuts, the other cars move back into convoy to head for their next target.
Vans with flashing lights block a main road to allow the convoy a safe passage into another area of Manenberg.
At one house officers are met with barks and snarls from a dog the size of a small lion. It jumps up against a metal gate set into a high, face-brick wall that resembles a fortress.
An officer stares down at the dog and it starts to back away, still snarling.
“This house gives us a lot of trouble,” an officer says.
A journalist walks from neighbour to neighbour in a futile attempt to get comments. No one wants to talk.
Shouts are heard from a second floor window. Officers lean out pointing to a small parcel in the snarling hound’s enclosure. Three officers try to reach the package through the fence without getting too close to the dog.
At the same time, a young man wearing an American flag draped around his neck is led out of the house.
The arresting officer holds the suspect in one hand while clutching a tied-up red and white scarf containing drugs in the other.
The suspect’s personal belongings are taken off him while he is quizzed on his gang affiliations and age.
Other officers open the scarf to examine the contents - a number of packets of tik and a pill bottle containing mandrax.
The notorious John Down Walk in Hanover Park is next on the list. John Down Walk is a territory of the Mongrels Gang and has been the scene of many shootings in the past few months.
The blocks of flats are surrounded by corrugated-iron structures with many walkways and narrow routes between them.
“This is why they always manage to vanish,” one officer says, pointing down one of the walkways.
People fill the streets to watch the action. Some of the residents chat to the officers, who they seem to know from various community events such as protest marches and peace gatherings.
Police vehicles fill the narrow streets as a search is conducted on a number of properties.
A young policeman stands guard at one entrance while his colleagues search inside.
Nothing is found on the property, but one resident remarks that it is good these searches are conducted.
According to Major-General Jacobs, the operations are not only aimed at getting drugs off the streets, but also at catching drug lords.
“If large numbers of drugs come into Cape Town they have to be distributed internally,” Jacobs explains.
“So part of the operation is to attack the routes inside Cape Town for the effective control of the drug issue.
“We are going to be focusing intensively on gangs and drug dealers,” he says. “We are going to work to ensure that we can deal with [their] activity. We are going to catch them, and once we catch them ensure that they stay in [prison].”